Rob Immel didn’t seem that tired.
He gave his 2-year-old son Talon a high-five through the Plexiglas shield of a Sportsplex court Sunday afternoon, turning to throw a hard, red ball at alarming speed. One of the 11 other sweating gymwear-clad players on the court braced, taking it in the hip.
“One minute left,” shouted a guy in the watching crowd.
A rocket-launch countdown echoed through the whole complex, disturbing soccer-playing middle schoolers on other courts, and getting louder. On “one,” 12 giddy players rushed each other, rubber balls flying in all directions, smacking the barriers.
They embraced like World Series champs. The small crowed roared. Champagne bottles erupted. They had reason to be happy. The group of players, led by Immel, broke the Guinness Book world record for longest continuous dodgeball play at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. They stopped at 43 hours, which is a long time to play dodgeball.
“And we played it right the whole time,” Immel said, a very large can of well-earned Pabst in one hand and a bottle of bubbly in the other. “The way the game is supposed to be played: Hard, fun.”
He described the post-game as an incredible high, but for Immel at least, it’s one he’s felt before. Back in 2010, he was part of a team to break the 31-hour record. “Then Castleton took it last year,” he said. “It was time to get it back.”
The game finally over, players mingled with their friends and kids in a court smelling of 43 hard hours. Maybe the only guy in the room with a full night’s sleep to his name — Don Tallman — made his rounds with a cane, shaking hands. Tallman came from the Wounded Warrior Project to see the end. While breaking the record, the team also managed to raise more than $2,500 for the Wounded Warriors.
“Things like this are what keep us going,” he said. “They’ll be sore in the morning.”
There were 18 players — two teams of nine with six on each side playing constantly since Friday. Immel organized the effort, leading the mostly local players in the Upstate team against a group of downstaters. While he said Upstate won, the actual competition was against fatigue.
“It hurts,” said Jeff Jeanette, flexing his forearm. “I have to palm the ball, which is tough. He can just throw it like a baseball,” he said, speaking of Brett Granfors, who held up an immense hand reinforced at the knuckles with green tape.
“I can just grip it,” he said, “which is an advantage.”
Jeanette and Granfors are both professional dodgeballers, members of the NDL (National Dodgeball League for the nonenthusiast), as is Immel.
“I wasn’t going to just let anyone off the street play,” he said. “We even have pro here from Japan.”
Toshiya Yoshida sat on the court as the others talked and drank. He looked pretty tired.
“I play very well in Japan,” he said, “but 43 hours is very hard. It is an accomplishment.”
None of the players admitted to using any of the four blanket-draped air mattresses outside the court, yet none, with the possible exception of Yoshida, seemed at a proper level of exhausted.
“It’s always a party with Robby,” Jeanette said. “We’d do anything with that guy. If he said, ‘let’s go jump in the lake in Speedos,’ we’d do it.”
Granfors lowered his head.
“If I go home now, the party’s over.”
Outside the glassed-in court, the upper Sportsplex floor looked a bit like a kid’s bedroom post slumber party. The air mattresses were pushed to the corners among coolers and empty cans. Immel’s mother, Christine, straightened up. People walked to their cars.